Art Department

Back to Contents of Issue: October 2000

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by Andrew Pothecary




Renga is an Internet-based collaborative art form that involves one artist originating a work and then emailing it to another, who adapts and extends it before passing it on. As in the tradition of linked verse in Japan, the process can continue indefinitely. Toshihiro Anzai and Rieko Nakamura have been doing their two-artist rengas and collaborations -- see -- for a number of years.

In their latest collaboration, a third, blind artist is involved. Takayuki Mitsushima usually works with cut paper and Letraline to get a feelable raised texture. To translate between his world and the computer screen, his textured images are scanned for the others to work on digitally; or if Toshihiro or Rieko are the originators, their works are printed by a thermal embosser, or by an image plotter that cuts their digital creations into paper.

They call it tactile renga. "Mitsushima enjoys the fact that he cannot see. Rieko and I enjoy touching art," says Toshihiro. The results of their collaboration can be seen not only on the Web site, but in exhibitions scheduled for Portugal this month and for Bali in December.

In many ways, this form of renga (the word, by the way, comes from two characters: ren, for linked, and ga, for image) has a non-technological, almost artistically "primitive" feel. But, as Rieko says, "Relating to the most advanced technology and people who study it means relating to the most energy-filled time ... renga not only fuses technology and art, but creates a bond between people."

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